We Are Still Here

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The neighbor children are tracing around each other’s bodies with sidewalk chalk. From my desk, I see them through the window taking it in turns to lie, still as a stone, on the driveway, offering their perimeter. It is a serious task, requiring the tracer to move her entire body around the placid figure she outlines.

I watch the girl thread the chalk between her brother’s feet, up the long path of his legs, around his arms, along the rugged terrain of shoulder and neckline. He smiles up at her and waits his turn as artist, plucking the thick stalk of color from her chalky fingers as they switch roles. They leave behind evidence in pinks and blues, yellows and greens: they were here; they are still here.

Later, I walk the dog under slow-moving clouds; the moist heat of the summer evening becomes my second skin. The neighborhood streets are quiet, hushed by the coming of night. In the fading daylight I dare to visit their chalky mural and let it tell me a story.

I see that each outline has been colored in with detail—a rainbow-striped skirt for the girl, the boy’s bright red hair in short-cropped curly loops, and long eyelashes and wide, full-lipped smiles for both. But the thing that tells the story is the way the children have joined their hands. I know they weren’t holding hands when the outlines were traced; I watched the making. But here they are, reaching out to each other in Technicolor, clutching tight with hands that look like tennis balls.

The writing life can be so Benedictine—we live cloistered, set apart, dedicated to tapping out words as prayer. And yet, in Writing Down the Bones, Natalie Goldberg says, “Writing is not just writing. It is also having a relationship with other writers … It’s much better to be a tribal writer, writing for all people and reflecting many voices through us, than to be a cloistered being trying to find one peanut of truth in our own individual mind. Become big and write with the whole world in your arms.”

How do you say goodbye to a community who has become your tribe? To the people who bring you the world and offer you their hearts in story? Over the years, The High Calling has become just that: a place of relationship. The voices and friendships I have found here have helped me fill in the details of my chalk outline, coaxed my writing voice into a rich, wide-lipped smile.

The day after the kids drew their chalk figures, one of those sudden, driving, summer storms blew through. I watched from the window as all that color ran down my neighbor’s driveway in rivulets. When the sun came out, the mural was gone. No rainbow-striped skirt, no wide-lipped smiles, no outstretched hands clasped together; every speck of color scoured clean.

I felt sad, until my neighbor’s screen door banged open. Out skipped the little girl in a rainbow-colored skirt. As he always does, her little brother followed close behind, red hair glinting.

Halfway across the drive, she reached out her hand. And when he reached out to take it, I felt my heart swell.

We were here. We are still here. Hands outstretched toward one another. Nothing can wash that away.

Don’t forget, in honor of Hannah More’s extraordinary life and the contribution she made in support of the founding of the school we left Teddy at this weekend, I’m giving away a copy of Karen Swallow Prior’s beautiful book Fierce Convictions: The Extraordinary Life of Hannah More: Poet, Reformer, Abolitionist. Just leave a comment on this post for a chance to win. I’ll announce the winner tomorrow, Wednesday, 8/26.

edited by Ann Kroeker. image by Steven Depolo, used with permission, sourced via Flickr.

Comments

  1. says

    Yes, we are still here, reaching across the miles, touching each other’s hearts, filling in the lines, color, hue, and grace, showers of encouragement, shimmer of light, friends. Community. Place. Welcome. I will miss The High Calling as I’ve known it, forever changed by the beauty of this place. Forever grateful. Forever thankful for the friends I’ve made. Looking forward to skipping out the door and linking arms together again after the rain, my Friend.

    • says

      Cindee, one of the sweetest pleasures I’ve had as a part of The High Calling has been to sit at the table and hear a small part of your story. I’m so inspired by you, my friend. By the ways you find beauty in the small, by the ways you love big, by your generous heart and spirit. So blessed to link arms with you, dear one.

  2. Marcus Goodyear says

    It has been so fun to draw chalk outlines with you these past few years! That is a perfect metaphor. We have had a good tribe, and perhaps we will continue to be a tribe of sorts, encouraging each other even if we are not working together in quite the same way. We still have the same over-arching goal of honoring God in our words and in our relationships with readers, publishers, and other writers.

    It has been a great joy getting to know you here!

    • says

      Marcus, it’s been so much fun working (and playing) with you these past years. You are one of the kindest people I know and I am so grateful for your friendship. I do hope we will continue the tribal powwows in some fashion! Much love to you and your sweet family.

    • says

      It worked out pretty sweet. I must admit, I felt a little foolish crying over sidewalk chalk, but God used it to speak sweet encouragement to me. Plus, the neighbor kids are the cutest little thing. They are crazy about Bonnie. She’s not so sure of them.

  3. says

    Beautifully written, Laura. I haven’t been part of your tribe at the High Calling, but I think these words speak to more than that . . . lines are drawn, hands reach out, fingers clasp. And then life happens and the connection may change. But the imprint is there, the impact was made and no rain, no storm of life can change that fact. Blessings on your week, my friend.

    • says

      Yes, June, you get it. Changes are inevitable as we grow and learn. I’m walking through this with Teddy as he maneuvers all those tricky areas of the first part of college. It’s fascinating to be in both of these places at the same time. It’s making it even more bittersweet, I think. Thank you for your sweet words. xoxo

  4. says

    I am incredibly grateful for God’s providential gift of bringing me to Laity last November. I arrived with no expectations, but I had a heart cry to find God in a gap. I was desperate to know Shekinah was still a real thing. Imagine my surprise to come away from the The High Calling retreat glowing from the Jesus shine each one of you dear ones reflected into me. I came for solitude and found instead a community I never believed possible. I know for sure these relationships are tied with the cords of eternal thread.

    • says

      And you blessed by entering into community with us, Monica. I’m so grateful I had the chance to meet you in the flesh and hear your voice face-to-face. I’ve been praying for you, friend. You’ve been heavy on my heart as you continue on your journey. Much love.

  5. says

    Ah, this one made me cry. So beautiful — and so beautifully TRUE. I always want to be a part of your tribe, Laura. On the edges, I’m sure, but still . . . we’re still here.

  6. says

    Sweet friend, I love this. I love you. We have truly been a part of something rare and wonderful. Like you, I know seasons must change, and with the change comes growth. But that doesn’t mean it is easy. We will still be a tribe–count on that! Thanks for this beautiful tribute.

  7. says

    One way we encouraged missionaries who have to come home from a foreign service is their life was not a waste. The most wonderful part of being a Christian is the bonds we make here will go on for eternity, never broken because of Christ. And always, when God closes one door another opens with different opportunities for even more relationship to be built. In my years of saying goodbyes and hellos I have only gained, never loss for life is in Christ in what ever I do or where ever I do it. He is the connection in all things.

    • says

      Thank you for these beautiful words, Betty. They do give me heart. I love imagining eternity and having all the time of forever to grow and learn and love all the friends we’ve met throughout our life! Isn’t that a beautiful thing to hold? Thank you for that gift.

  8. says

    This is lovely! It reminds me that although the rain is washing away what was created, we can still take each other’s hands. Thank you.

    P.S. Love this: “offering their perimeter.” That’s a poet’s phrase.

    • says

      Thank you, Megan :). I guess I should say (maybe I”ll add it to the bottom of the post) that this piece was edited by the amazing Ann Kroeker. I seem to remember we worked on that phrase a little bit. I was worried about the image of chalk outlines at death scenes (is that weird) but couldn’t think of a better phrase. She helped me work through the wording a bit :). Love to you, friend. I WILL be seeing you around.

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